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Category: Ancient History

2017: a balance

Before we leave the office to spend the last week of the year in a drunken stupor and with permanent indigestion, let’s take a moment to make up a balance of 2017. Even though it’s been pretty quiet here on the Data Ninjas front, we haven’t been sitting on our ass, as they say here in Belgium [which isn’t exactly true, since to be able to do my job, I need to sit on my ass, so I do that quite a lot, actually]. Not a lot of new networky stuff, I’m afraid, although I have given quite some workshops and classes this year. All hail the Spaghetti Monster! Silke has an awesome job in Dublin, home of U2, Guinness, Guinness, coddle, and Guinness. She has infiltrated the corporate world, and is now soaking up invaluable skillz and is brainwashing strategic players so that one day, in the hopefully not so distant future, world domination is ours. Her first mission was Google, one which she accomplished with great success. She has now moved on to the next big corporation on our list, which I cannot reveal here, since it would endanger her operation. So may you forgive her for not reporting to you as frequently and enthusiastically as she used to; her work is now classified as top secret. Rest assured, I have not forsaken pastafariansim either. I have simply been expanding my personal ‘DH toolkit’ with a new set of digital skillz that allow me to become a true…

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‘This little piggy went to market’

Another short note on hogs and whores in the eastern desert praesidia: Philokles’ pigs Time to end the year with a bang! A couple of weeks ago, I drew your attention to Philokles, merchant of quality vegetables and first rate whores. Here’s a little follow-up on that story today: Philokles’ pigs. As you may have read, and no doubt by now have already forgotten, most of the letters belonging to the Philokles dossier (to use a fancy French word, because we Belgians are, constitutionally, a trilingual country) deal with Schmaus (it would be rude to ignore our German-tongued compatriots now). Cabbages were something they couldn’t get enough of in the eastern desert, but appels, onions, asparagus, salt, pig meat and rabbit dung were also gladly provided. The fruit and vegetables were grown locally, probably in Phoinikon or Persou, where there was enough irrigation for this purpose. Raising pigs in the desert was trickier though: the climate is much too warm and dry, and it would require a LOT of water. Some remains of a pigsty have been found, indicating that a limited number was brought to the camps, probably for ritual purposes. In general though, cured meat was imported from the Nile valley (yup, beef jerky goes that far back). Boar of the piglets So when the unpublished potsherd K193 (yes, we use code for our texts in papyrology to mislead the enemy) mentions a ‘boar of the piglets’, papyrological eyebrows are raised, and as professor Cuvigny remarks: this passage is…

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Harlots of the desert

Philokles: introduction Today we have the pleasure to present you: Philokles! Philokles lived on the outskirts of Egyptian society, in the dull eastern desert between the Nile valley and the Red Sea that was dotted with Roman army camps (praesidia). These camps were situated along the desert tracks from Koptos to Myos Hormos (not far from Urghada) and to Berenike in the south. The camps had to protect the caravans and were manned with a handful of soldiers, who often stayed in the desert for months, bored to death, and sometimes threatened by Bedouins. Philokles wasn’t a soldier himself, so why on earth would you want to spend your days there?! Life is short, and was even shorter still 2,000 years ago. But our dear Philokles could smell opportunities hundreds of sandy miles away. For he was a businessman, and if business takes you east, you suit up, strap yourself on that donkey or camel and go with the flow, he said (ok, maybe he didn’t…). He wasn’t one of those Big Shot dealers who hauled in pepper and other spices from India or shipped out fine wines from Syria and even Italy to the Far East though. No, Philokles found his niche in a more modest market: basic food, such as wheat and wine, was provided by the army, but luxuries such as meat and vegetables had to be bought by the soldiers themselves. Upon hearing this, the drachme signs no doubt started flickering in Philokles’ eyes. Philokles is known…

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Open CFP: Digital Approaches and the Ancient World

More publicity! *Digital Approaches and the Ancient World* A themed issue of the _Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies_ Editors: Gabriel Bodard (University of London) gabriel dot bodard at Yanne Broux (KU Leuven) yanne dot broux at Ségolène Tarte (University of Oxford) segolene dot tarte at Call for papers: We invite colleagues all around the world and at all stages of their careers to submit papers on the topic of “Digital Approaches and the Ancient World” to a themed issue of the Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies. The topic is to be construed as widely as possible, to include not only the history, archaeology, language, literature and thought of the ancient and late antique Mediterranean world, but also of antiquity more widely, potentially including, for example, South and East Asian, Sub-Saharan African or Pre-Columbian American history. Digital approaches may also vary widely, to include methodologies from the digital humanities and information studies, quantitative methods from the hard sciences, or other innovative and transdisciplinary themes. Papers will be fully peer reviewed and selected for inclusion based not only on their research quality and significance, but especially on their ability to engage profoundly both with classics/history academic readers, and scholars from digital or informatic disciplines. We are keen to see papers that clearly lay out their disciplinary and interdisciplinary methodological approaches, and present and interpret the full range of scholarly and practical outcomes of their research. We encourage the use of and direct reference to open…

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Three-mode networks for Elephantine letters

Last summer, the Almighty Trismegistos Overlord dumped a collection of demotic letters from Elephantine on my desk.   The above sentence is most likely highly confusing in a myriad of ways. a) Demotic letters? I guess everyone knows hieroglyphs, those funny birds and squatting figures found on every possible piece of rock and stone in Egypt. Since not everyone was a gifted smokey-eyed, linnen-wrapped Michelangelo though, a more fluently-written variant of this script soon emerged, called hieratic. Demotic is supposedly an even more cursively evolved, Late and Graeco-Roman variant. I don’t buy it. Those people simply had horrible handwriting. My Auto-correct keeps on insisting that this should be ‘demonic’ by the way. I nod vigorously in agreement each time.  b) Elephantine? A town in Upper Egypt, just downstream of the first Nile cataract. No, there are no elephants there. c) Upper Egypt – first Nile cataract? Those of you with no / a limited / a normal amount of geographical sense probably have no clue what the catch is here. So let me elaborate: the first cataract is in Nubia, a charming little region located in the Republic of Sudan, ergo: south of Egypt. But then, shouldn’t Upper be, like, up north? No! Why make things simple, if they can also be confusing and disorientating? Actually, there’s a logic behind this: since the Nile flows from south to north, Upper Egypt is the upstream part, and Lower Egypt the downstream part. I’d have voted for Downer Egypt to make more sense, but…

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Onomastic network in Trismegistos People

Dear tootsie rolls, A while back I posted how the Oxford Internet Institute made this world a better place thanks to their sigma.js export plugin for Gephi. When I demonstrated this little gem to our Trismegistos Overlord, he was dead psyched. I tell you, that man can smell an opportunity aeons away.      So these past couple of weeks, he’s been edging me on to make networks of just about everything in Trismegistos. Compliant, obliging and submissive as I am, I’ve been doing practically nothing else ever since. The first database I conquered is the Names database. With 17,182 nodes and 69,860 edges, this is definitely the largest network I’ve set up so far. And now it’s all yours to play around with! It’s got a nice Egyptian component, and a Greek component, and some ambiguous names, like Anoubas, in the middle.    But our terrifyingly transcendental Trismegistos overlord had bigger plans still. Last week, he finally let me in on the deal: not only would we post the network online with the help of the plug-in, we would also display the ego network of each individual name.      So now, when you look up a name, like Achilleus (for those of you heathens who haven’t looked up names in Trismegistos yet, see fig. 1 & 2), you not only get an overview of all the variants, the number of attestations, the chronological and geographical spread, but also a visualization of all the other names Achilleus is connected to. Like…

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The Trismegistos Tabloid, July 18 2014

(Since Facebook doesn’t allow XXL pictures, and without them, this week’s Trismegistos Tabloid would be worthless, I’m posting it here, just this once. You can click on the pics to supersize them) Today’s TT features an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Trismegistos People database! Some of you are probably already familiar with our website and how it works. Others just liked this page out of sympathy, or perhaps rather a sense of social obligation. But undoubtedly, most of you just like the funny pictures and have no idea what Trismegistos is actually all about. Don’t worry, I don’t judge. In the end, it’s all about the rising number of post and page likes I can present our Trismegistos overlord in the hope of a nice Christmas bonus. Anywho, this is what you get when looking up Mrs. Demetria-Tereus, daughter of Hermaios, online:       It shows her name, her parents, additional info on ethnics, titles, etc. if available, and then a list of all the texts she appears in. Pretty straightforward. In our Filemaker version, this is what her record looks like: We get some extra info, such as the family tree and a link to the Name database for onomastic purposes. Since our beloved D.-T. is mentioned four times, she also has four records in the related reference database: This is a much more extensive database, with links not only to the Name database and her family members, just like in PER, but also to the Text database, all other…

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In the shadows of the pyramids…

Today we will take you back in time… *impatient reader shouting at his computer* Yeah, duh! This is a blog about ancient networks! Douche! Now bring on those exotic Egyptians and six-packed Spartans! There. Now stop complaining What we actually mean is that today we’ll talk about the very first network study we did, the first case study we tinkered with to get familiar with different SNA concepts and processes and which we presented at our very first Sunbelt conference in Hamburg in 2013. Yes, you see, no need to worry. You’ll get there. Only a year ago we were SNA virgins too, eager to have our cherry plucked… am I taking this too far? Anywho, we started out with the archive of Zenon. Who is this Zenon fellow, you ask, and why were you drawn to his particular archive? Because he is the HERO of every papyrologist, I tell you. If there were a papyrology high school, Zenon’s poster would be tacked to every locker door, he’d flash a perhaps not so perfectly white and maybe even slightly lacunose smile from every smartphone background, and bitch fights would break out every other lunch break over who gets to dip his smooth flowing pen into their ink palette (and I mean this in the most literal of senses. We are not a gang of mummiphilous pervs). Zenon’s archive was found somewhere around the beginning of the 20th century during illegal excavations (I was going to say that our field bears…

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